Monthly Archives: March 2019

Living in the future: How will new materials shape our world?

The UK sends more household waste to landfill each year than any other country in the EU – 18.8 million tonnes, in fact.[i] And although we’re all aware of the need to recycle, as a country, our recycling rate has stagnated over the last few years[ii].

Sustainable living - Living in the future

The amount of waste being produced by the UK has come under the spotlight recently as we begin to realise the adverse effect the things we use every day are having on the environment. The focus has mainly been on the damage plastic products can do, and how companies large and small are taking steps to replace it with options that don’t cause so much harm to the environment – the recent plastic straw ban is a good example.

There’s no denying that, as a society, we are changing the way we think about the environment surrounding us. The throw-away nature of the past is being replaced by a much more eco-friendly, sustainable way of thinking, as we come to terms with the increasing need to protect our planet.

Of course, thinking sustainably isn’t – and shouldn’t be – limited to smaller everyday items (coffee cups, plastic bags, straws); we are also beginning to think about how we can use sustainable methods to shape our buildings and interiors.

Sustainable living - Eco-friendly building materials

The expert opinion

To find out more about how the way we live and interact with our surroundings is changing, we spoke to two experts. Katie Treggiden is a craft and design writer with nearly 20 years’ experience and has shared with us her predictions for how the buildings we live and work in will change. Katie believes we will see new, sustainable building materials becoming the norm, and a focus towards more inclusive building design, known as “universal design”.

To find out about the future of interiors, we spoke to Tiffany Grant-Riley who works as a freelance interior stylist, writer and blogger. She also believes there will be a move towards sustainability, and that new materials will be chosen for their low environmental impact. Tiffany predicts there could also be more focus on re-purposing existing materials, telling us that, “Cheaper materials known for their strength, like cardboard, are already being used for furniture, dubbed as quick and easy to assemble alternatives.” Perhaps, then, the forts we built as children out of cardboard boxes are closer to a future reality than we thought possible… albeit a much more grown up one.

Take a look at all our experts’ predictions in full here: Living in the Future: How will new materials shape our world?



A guide to pallets

The unsung hero of international trade – there are more pallets in use across Europe than there are people – a lot more. In fact, at the last count (in 2015, it takes time) there were 3 billion pallets being used across the EU, four for each person living in the region.

What is a pallet

With such ubiquity, this essential warehouse equipment forms the backbone of bulk transportation and storage pretty much everywhere, but there is way more to them than meets the eye.

Mostly they are wooden, though some are plastic and they come in a range of sizes and styles: picking the right one for your needs is something that needs a bit of thought.

What is a pallet?

So, first and foremost, what is a pallet, in technical terms, a “flat transport structure, which supports goods in a stable fashion while being lifted by a forklift, a pallet jack, a front loader, a jacking device or an erect crane”.[i]

Sometimes, pallets are mistaken for skids – wooden runners put under bulky items to help move them, invented by the ancient Egyptians to build the pyramids – but they are very different as we shall see.

Who invented the pallet?

Who invented the pallet

George Raymond, inventor of the pallet (Image: Raymond Corp.)

While pallets may seem to be one of nature’s immutable certainties, probably dating back to the dawn of creation, the invention of the pallet is widely credited to one George Raymond – and his chum Bill House. Well, they filed a patent in the 1930s for a sort of sled-cum-pallet – more akin to wooden ‘skis’ that Raymond added cross slats to and made stackable.

Raymond’s patented pallet also featured a lower ‘deck’ that makes it resemble what we refer to today as pallets. This made them stackable and sturdier for transport on forklift trucks, themselves introduced in 1925 in the US.

What was notable about the Raymond-House ‘proto-pallet’ was that it was designed to be made out of cheap timber – with the view to cost-effectively replace the cornucopia of packaging solutions then in use: wooden crates, barrels, kegs and cardboard boxes.

This has made the pallet cheap enough to be so widespread. It has also meant that they can be reused repeatedly and eventually recycled – often ending up as fuel, paper pulp, or animal bedding.

How are pallets made?

Pallets are made, typically, of wood, however there are plastic ones as well, which we’ll come onto later. Of the wooden ones, many are made from actual timber, cut to size and often glued together with strong polyurethane adhesive or nails or staples.

However, some wooden pallets are moulded in high pressure presses from wood powder. These have the advantage that they are a single piece with no additional materials added for fixings. This makes them much easier to recycle at the end of their life, but they tend not to be as strong and are for smaller loads.

Standard moulded wood pallets

What are plastic pallets made from?

Plastic pallets are also moulded, and usually made from copolymer polypropylene, or high-density polyethylene (HDPE) resin and injection moulded; though more costly, but can be advantageous if you need to store things in a dry and bacteria-free environment. They are also great for chemical resistance, and suitable for use with most acids, chemicals and solvents.

Plastic pallets are tough, clean and chemically resistant

How big is a pallet?

Pallets come in all shapes and sizes – and made of different materials, depending on where they are being used and what they are being used for. But there are a set of standard sizes, designed to help uniformity of use in storage, shipping and of course lifting on standard sized forklifts.

So, what is the size of a standard pallet? Typically, in old money, 48×40, 42×42 and 48×48 inches. Square pallets are more stable when being lifted, but sometimes, depending on what is being stored or moved, they aren’t as suitable, so rectangular 48×40 pallets are used.

How big is a pallet

Side view, standard dimensions of a European standard pallet (Image: EPAL)

Here in the UK – and EU – of course pallets are metrically dimensioned, and come in standard sizes, measured in millimetres. Typically, these are 1200×800, 1200×1000 and for moulded wooden pallets can take between 350kg and 1250kg depending on their spec.

Dimensions of a pallet

Top view, standard dimensions of a European standard pallet (Image: EPAL)

Plastic pallets come in 600×800, 1200×800 and 1200×1000 and can take between 400 and 800kg dynamic load. Heavy duty plastic pallets are also available in 1200×800 and can take loads of over 800kg.

How heavy is a wooden pallet?

The weight of the pallet itself is also important to know – not least as it will have to be included in the export manifest details of the weight of what is being shipped. So how heavy is a wooden pallet?

A typical wooden stringer pallet sized 1200×1000 weighs around 15 to 22kgs. A pressed wooden pallet sized 1200×800 rated for 350kg load weighs in at 8.5kg; a 1200×1000 rated to 1250kg dynamic load comes in at 19kg. A heavy-duty plastic pallet that is 1200×800 will weigh about 8.6kg. [ii]

What type of wood are pallets made from?

So, let’s take a more detailed look at the type of wood are pallets made from, how the different kinds are made and how, if you’ll pardon the pun, they stack up.

What wood is used for pallets?

What would is used for pallets

The type of wood used for pallets vary, stringer pallets – those made from ‘strings’ of wood, as opposed to moulded wooden pallets – are typically made from a range of woods, depending on costs. Typically, they are a mixture of hard and soft woods, often oak for the load bearing parts as it is strong and southern yellow pine for the non-load bearing parts.

Often pallets are also made from plywood constructed of alternate layers of hard and soft woods. Both kinds of pallets also then need heat treating.

What is a heat-treated pallet?

A heat-treated pallet is one where the wood has been kiln dried and this is necessary to strengthen the wood by removing excess moisture, as well as to essentially sterilise it, killing off spores and bacteria that may live in the wood. This is vital for pallets being used for any form of export.

In fact, the heat-treatment of pallets is essential and is regulated under the International Phytosanitary Standard for Wood Packaging – ISPM15, currently adopted by 14 countries and the entire European Union.

Interestingly, pressed wooden and plastic pallets – both of which are heated during their pressing – are exempt. As is sawdust and barrels.

To meet the standard of ISPM15, pallets and pallet wood needs to be heated to a minimum temperature of 56 °C for a minimum duration of 30 continuous minutes throughout the entire profile of the wood (including at its core).

Various energy sources or processes may be suitable to achieve these parameters. For example, kiln-drying, heat-enabled chemical pressure impregnation, microwave or other treatments may all be considered heat treatments provided that they meet the heat treatment parameters specified in this standard.

How long do heat treated pallets last?

A heat-treated pallet is designed to have a long life, not just free from pests and decay, but also hardened by the heat treating process. As to how long a pallet lasts all depends on how you use it. Treated kindly they can last for up to 10 years in their primary function. Recycled into furniture and other domestic products can see this doubled or even tripled.

Are pallets also chemically treated?

As well as being heat treated, pallets are often also chemically treated to protect them from insects, mould and decay. Typically, wooden pallets are treated with methyl bromide, a toxic pesticide to protect them still further.

What accessories do you need with pallets?

Pallets on their own aren’t enough to cover all your shipping needs. You will also need all manner of pallet accessories to make the pallet system work. Cardboard pallet caps and trays are essential for protecting your products when on the pallet, as are cardboard divider sheets, and general purpose edge protectors.

It also a good idea to ‘top’ your pallet stack with waterproof sheeting in case it is outside at any point in its transport, as are tear-off pallet covers on a roll, for that extra protection.

To move stacks of pallets around you will also need dollies that essentially puts the pallet on wheels or even a self-propelled stacker. Either way, there is plenty of equipment available to make palletising the go to option for storage and shipping.


There are many pallets and accessories available, be they wooden stringer pallets as invented back in the 1930s by George Raymond, who built on the ancient Egyptian idea of the skid, or pressed wooden pallets or even plastic pallets that can handle tough environments, chemicals and more.

With literally billions of pallets in circulation around the world, it is easy to take them for granted and never truly see how useful they are, but hopefully we’ve given you some insight into how there is much more to the humble pallet than you thought – and that there are myriad ways they can be used.



The importance of eco-friendly packaging for online UK shoppers

Your favourite retailer has a sale, this is an exciting mini-fist pump moment and you make the mental note to look online later, and that evening your order is placed. The next day your parcel arrives – the box is huge! You question yourself on what you ordered, can you even remember? Or are you wondering if the correct item has been sent. Confusion sets in as you eagerly open the cardboard box. You’re shocked at the amount of excessive packaging is in the box – there’s loads of scrunched Kraft paper.  You rummage around somewhere underneath and you find your purchase.

The importance of eco-friendly packaging for online UK shoppers

‘Sustainability’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘recycling’ are all buzz words you are likely to be familiar with. Contrary to popular belief, online shoppers deem delivery costs and ensuring packages arrive safely to be more important than considering any environmental issues.

As ecommerce sales increase so will the demand and resources needed to support this supply chain.

As online shopping increases, the savvy and environmentally conscious are concerned about the detrimental effects to the environment if this continues, and this is an issue that affects us all.

94% of British adults say they care about the environment

We unearthed some of the UK’s recycling habits, although cardboard is the most commonly used packaging material used by retailers, 21% of people do not recycle their cardboard packaging, or will only sometimes recycle it. It begs the question of whether the UK cares as much about the environment as they say they do.

whistl, the delivery management company, conducted a recent survey identifying factors that influence online purchases. Results found, delivery to be the most important factor when buying online.

Interestingly, 75% of UK shoppers were frustrated with excessive packaging, and wanted retailers to reduce the volume of packaging used, and for retailers to adopt eco-friendly alternatives. While receiving inappropriately packed parcels was the biggest annoyance amongst respondents; 58% said they will not act upon this or voice their concerns, and will only have considerations about eco-friendly packaging as an afterthought, or will not consider eco-packaging at all. [i]

The cost of eco-friendly packaging

Half of UK consumers would be unwilling to pay more for environmentally-friendly packaging. Those who only consider the packaging once the order has been delivered or never consider it, and would not be willing to pay any more. Surprisingly, frequent shoppers would be willing to pay more for an eco-friendly option compared to those who shop online infrequently.

The study shows that if there was a charge for eco-friendly packaging options, UK shoppers are on average willing to pay 82p extra. Though the amount shoppers might be willing to pay decreases with age, those aged 18-24 are willing to pay £1.19 extra compared to just 47p more for those over 65.

Melanie Darvall, Whistl’s Director of Marketing and Communications, commented:

“These results show that although some consumers do care about the environmental impact of their packaging the cost of delivery and secure product packaging are the most important factors influencing UK online shoppers.

“However, minimising the amount of packaging sent to a consumer and ensuring that it can be recycled kerbside could boost how satisfied your customer will be once their item has been delivered.”

What is eco-friendly packaging?

The phrase ‘eco-friendly’ can have a number of definitions and there are different interpretations of the term. When respondents were asked what they considered environmentally-friendly packaging to mean, 92% strongly associate it as an item that can be recycled.

The definition of environmentally-friendly packaging, or eco-friendly friendly packaging, has a broad meaning. Ultimately it is packaging that has aimed or considered, to not have a negative impact on the environment. This could be how the raw materials are grown; the means to source the raw materials, the manufacturing process, what the packaging is made of, or how the packaging can be dealt with after its intended use.  To put simply, during its entire lifecycle, how sustainable is the packaging.

FSC certified packaging supplier

If you’re looking for eco-friendly packaging look out for companies that have eco-friendly accreditation and policies such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

For more information on environmentally friendly packaging, our Packaging Specialists are available to offer advice, simply contact us on 0800 542 44 29 or


Don’t get stuck with the wrong kind of tape – masking and paper tape guide

Masking tape and paper tape guide

Tape plays a vital role in any business and its uses are multifarious. From sticking things together, to sealing packages, to acting as de facto labels; without tape, many of us would quickly come unstuck.

But which kinds of tape are best for which jobs? Here we take a look at some of the common kinds of tape available and what each is best suited to. Let’s get stuck in…

What is masking tape?

Masking tape is a lightly adhesive, easy to tear, paper tape, that can be smoothly applied and removed without leaving marks or damage. Traditionally also known as painter’s tape, masking tape comes in a variety of widths and is designed for use in painting, to mask off areas that should not be painted.

Masking tape and labelling

Masking tape can be used for all sorts of things – especially making labels (image: Chiara Torre, Flikr)

However, the gentleness of masking tape – thanks to its low-level adhesive – makes it ideal for many other uses, not least in packaging.

What is masking tape used for?

Masking tape is used for an array of tasks despite it being originally designed for masking during painting. According to a Reader’s Digest study, people use it to mend everything from Hoover bags to umbrellas, to hang party streamers or to even make a road for toy cars!

Creative ideas with masking tape

Masking tape makes for a great road (image: pequefelicidad on Pinterest)

But by far its most prevalent, non-painting use is to label things – and this is where masking tape comes into its own. It offers a clean and simple way to label and identify small products or components, without damaging them. The tape sticks to most surfaces, be they metal or plastic, without leaving a mark – making it ideal for labelling in offices and warehouses. It is also water and heat resistant, so it is ideal for marking products that are shipped overseas.

It also comes in a multitude of sizes, with small tape being ideal to label and protect a small number of components, or to make sure that the goods remain untrammelled, there is a range of reliable Scotch 3M masking tape that can be cleanly removed after use.

What is paper tape?

Having learned about masking tape, you might now be asking yourself – ‘so what is paper tape?’. Understandably we can see why there might be some confusion over this popular material. Masking tape can apply itself to a multitude of tasks, it often isn’t adhesive enough to be used to seal boxes and packages. For that you need paper tape.

Paper tape applied to a cardboard box

Paper tape offers a much more secure way to seal up boxes and packages, being much more strongly adhesive. It is also water resistant and works well in humid conditions, making it ideal for sealing up boxes for transit or storage.

Self-adhesive paper tape can be quickly and neatly applied direct to the package or box, often from a dispenser.

Self-adhesive paper tape can be applied from a dispenserFor a more secure, longer-term seal, water-activated, gummed paper tape offers an ideal solution, again being applied using a special unit that moistens the tape as it is applied.

Gummed paper tape can be applied with water to affect long-lasting adhesion

Electronic water activated tape dispenser that moistens the tape, ready to be applied

What is paper tape used for?

As we have seen, paper tape is used for sealing up boxes and packages for shipping and transit – ideal for the long haul.

To quickly seal packages, self-adhesive paper tape can be readily applied with a neat, hand-held dispenser, that also features serrated teeth to snap it off at the exact length needed.

For a longer-term seal, gummed paper tape can be applied with water; once dry it bonds to the board. But gummed paper tape has another advantage: it can be recycled. Once pulled off – to open the package – it can be thrown in the recycling or left on the cardboard box, to produce, somewhere down the line, more paper tape, another cardboard box or perhaps even art.

Creating art with paper tape

Paper tape can be recycled – in this case into art (along with some packaging tape) (Image: Marcus Liddle, Flikr)

How to use paper tape?

You might be used to only using plastic tape but once you understand how to use paper tape, you will realise the benefits are suited for certain applications. Being made from paper, it is known for its recyclability. Paper tape – self-adhesive or gummed – is ideal for use on today’s recycled and partially recycled boxes. Many of today’s recycled boxes include a certain amount of plastic, making it hard for plastic tapes to stick and seal. Paper tape forms a much better bond with this sort of material.

Paper tape – especially gummed, reinforced paper tape is also more cost-effective. Cross reinforced tape is strong and, importantly, instantly adheres – so your operatives are using less of it than plastic tape, which most people tend to overuse in multiple layers.

To effectively use paper tape appropriately, remember to apply using a tape dispenser for a smoother adhesion and better application!

What about packaging tape?

So all this talk about paper tape, what about packaging tape. Of course paper tape and masking tape aren’t the only, or always the best options for labelling and sealing packages. Vinyl-based packaging tape is a strong and durable alternative to paper tape, offering a good strong seal for all manner of sizes of package or box.

As you can see, packaging tape comes in a range of sizes and colours and can even be used to usefully seal and label packages, marking them as ‘Fragile’, ‘Do Not Shake’ or even as a security seal to show that they haven’t been tampered with or opened in transit.

Fragile pre-printed vinyl tape is ideal for a strong seal and clear labelling

In conclusion

Packaging tape comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colours and makes it one of the most versatile packaging materials. From masking tape that can gently hold things together or act as a lovely label, to paper tape that offers a strong, yet environmentally-friendly, way to seal boxes and packages from transit and storage, the role of tape is huge. Let’s not also forget about custom printed tape, this personalised tape is available in paper and plastic, it allows you to not only seal your packages securely, but also to add your all-important messaging or even some much needed branding – so your customers stick with you, if you’ll pardon the pun.

For more information on packaging tape, simply get in touch with our team of Packaging Specialists who are on hand to offer advice.  Visit or contact 0800 542 44 28, or